“ARC” by M. E. Lange

This is a book created by an expert writer of Nonfiction who has little idea how a novel should be structured. The result is a tip of the hat to Apocalyptic Sci-fi, but the reality is a fascinating textbook on up-to-date advances in the ecological sciences. It is also a great character study of a developing genius, but that still doesn’t make it a good novel.

The quality of the writing is the strength of this book. I have never read a better explanation of the malaise our society is feeling right now and the causes of it. The main character — a high-achieving teenager with personal demons – feels those fears intensely and gives us an emotional focus for them. Unfortunately, it takes about a quarter of the book to lay this all out, during which we make no progress towards “The Event” that the author hints is going to shake her world.

Which brings us to the structure. It is pretty well accepted that in average fiction, the inciting incident needs to happen in the first quarter of the book. That’s how the vast majority of trade novels are set up, and if you want to do something different, you’re taking your chances.

This book is about 400 pages long, and “The Event” occurs on page 270. What does the rest consist of? Well, mostly explanation and description. The word “explain” is found on 133 pages, often used more than once.

The plot involves the main character spending her summer on a high-tech ecological research ship. This setting description takes up 50 pages, including a full script of the captain’s introduction of the officers, with half a page describing each one. And this section has no conflict. Except for a couple of “if I’d only known” warnings, it’s all happiness and light.

No matter how interesting the characters are and how fascinating the science is, you can’t waste that much of the book on description.

Once “The Event” happens, (and it’s a doozy), the action picks up to an acceptable level. Now our long and intense relationship with the  main character comes into play. Her worry is immediately our worry, and the sense of tension grows rapidly.

I don’t know who to recommend this book to, because it contains some great writing, but not what the average Sci-Fi reader wants.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.

About the Author: Gordon Long

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